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OSHA Launches New Effort to Reduce Heat-Related Illness

Stephanie Salmon

As part of an interagency administration effort to protect workers from the hazards associated with extreme heat, indoors and outdoors, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) outlined the following steps it plans to take in a Sept. 20 press release:

  • Issue a Proposed Rulemaking on heat injury and illness prevention for indoor and outdoor work settings in October 2021, which will include a public comment period.
  • Implement an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards to prevent and protect employees from serious heat-related illnesses and deaths while working. OSHA agency inspectors will ramp up inspections of work sites in “high-risk” industries, including foundries. The initiative will prioritize heat-related interventions and inspections of work activities on days when the heat index exceeds 80F.
  • Develop a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on heat hazard cases by 2022, which will target high-risk industries, including foundries and focus agency resources and staff time on heat inspections.
  • Form a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group to identify and share best practices to protect workers.

OSHA does not currently have a heat standard, so most citations related to exposure to heat-related hazards will be issued under the agency’s General Duty Clause. AFS and its Safety Committee will continue to engage on the heat-related actions and plans to offer substantive comments and input on the proposed rule to OSHA in the months ahead. In the interim, foundries should prepare for inspections by reviewing their procedures and developing a manner to monitor indoor temperatures, ensuring employees have access to water, educating employees on signs of heat illness, and providing access to ventilation or cooling areas in their plants.      

SEC Climate Rules Likely to Slip to Next Year

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is planning to propose rules by early next year that will require corporations to publicly disclose the risks they face from climate change.  On Sept. 22, SEC Chief Gary Gensler said the upcoming proposal will likely call for businesses to provide “qualitative” and “quantitative” information to investors. That could include specifics about how executives manage climate-related risks, as well as details about greenhouse gas emissions and the financial impact of global warming. The disclosures may appear in the mandatory filings public companies make to the SEC.

In addition, the SEC staff is also looking at whether companies should reveal emissions from other firms in their supply chains, known as “Scope 3.” As critical suppliers of castings, foundries would likely be included in Scope 3.  Furthermore, businesses may need to provide “scenario analyses” on how they might adapt to the range of possible physical, legal, market, and economic changes.

In a separate proposal, the SEC is also developing human capital disclosure rules, which could include diversity and compensation metrics and will likely be released sometime next year.     

Biden Admin Considers Action on China Subsidies

Senior U.S. officials are debating whether to open an investigation into China’s use of industrial subsidies, in a move that could spark an escalation in trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.  A new investigation would follow the administration’s growing frustration that China has not fundamentally shifted away from its heavy use of industrial subsidies to prop up strategically important sectors in recent years. The U.S. Trade Representative has asked outside consultants to help quantify the damage from Chinese subsidies to measure the kind of response that’s appropriate, should the investigation proceed.

Current 301 tariffs implemented during the Trump administration remain in place on roughly $300 billion Chinese imports—including a variety of iron, steel, and aluminum castings.  The administration is leaning toward reinstating an exclusion process for certain tariffs, though a decision has not yet been made. In recent years, the business community and many lawmakers have asked the administration to allow for such exemptions from the duties. AFS will closely monitor these new trade developments.